August 24th, 2008

_The Motherhood Manifesto_, Joan Blades and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner

Subtitled: What America's Moms Want and What to Do About It

Author #1 is co-founder of MoveOn.Org.

The authors and/or publisher and whoever else was involved in assembling this book went to some trouble to make sure their point(s) were conveyed clearly. They tell you what the book is about, then the book tells you stuff, then the conclusion reminds you of what it was about. There are call-outs throughout containing factoids, statistics, stories, etc. to give you a break from the linearity of the main line. There's a little acronym (MOTHER) to help you remember the main points of their platform.

No, you are not holding a magazine article. It really is a book.

The program is straightforward and pretty easy to agree with: paid parental leave, flexible work (defined broadly: number of hours, when hours worked, where hours worked, etc.), clear/universal TV ratings system, after school programs, universal health care for children (with an eye towards universal health care period), affordable childcare paid a living wage with health care, living wage for parents (and, in particular, equal pay for equal work by mothers, specifically).

While superficially, this has even more of the mother-focus than Crittenden's _If You've Raised..._, for a series of reasons, this bothered me a lot less. First, fathers were consistently included (viz. maternity/paternity leave). Second, they made a strong case for lack of flexibility tending to harm women more than men because they usually made less money anyway thus sacrificing their career was more likely. Third, they made a very strong case based on studies showing that while men who become fathers typically _don't_ take a hit to their earning power, women who become mothers do.

It _still_ would have been nice if this were presented in a less gendered fashion. I don't _think_ there was a single example of a same-sex couple used in an example in this book (Crittenden, actually, _did_ have at least one same-sex couple -- the woman rabbi post-divorce), but it's possible I failed to notice something.

Could I complain about things in this book? Like the vp at the Fortune 500 company who got worked up about the child care provider entertaining her (the vp's) kid in the car while cleaning it out while it was parked on the street? Sure. That's worth complaining about, even with the disclaimers included. I have no problem with people wanting to stay home and be with their young children. Heck, I think if they can, they should, man and woman alike. And I think we ought to be scrounging around and cutting back elsewhere to subsidize staying home more with the kiddies (say, NOT making Bush's tax cuts permanent, but preserving the "middle-class" benefits that were included; just as a for instance). I do have a problem with that particular story used to justify that particular decision.

But all in all, a nice, tight presentation. As clear as it is, reviews at Amazon indicate that a fair number of readers probably Still Do Not Get It. This isn't self-help. This isn't parenting advice. This is Public Policy (note that the suggested shelving locations for booksellers are Current Affairs/Women's Studies). It isn't intended to help people as individuals; it's intended to motivate collective action. That's not a problem that Blades and Rowe-Finkbeiner can in any way shape or form be held accountable form; that's just typical-American-individualism at its moronic best, pretending that every problem Must Be Solved By Each Person Individually.

The good news is, after the book was published and in the wake of the 2006 elections, we did _finally_ get an increase in the minimum wage. Not nearly enough, but still. Baby steps, apparently. Pick up a copy, and to the extent possible, let the details of the platform they present drive your voting choices at the polls come November.

Next up will probably be that history of Medicare that I bought used. _That_ ought to depress me no end.